Passan: Trading Partners

Rich Passan went ahead and gave the Cleveland Browns a grade on their draft before Draft Weekend. That's what Phil Savage gets for dealing away all his draft picks. Does Rich have second thoughts after Savage's frantic trading last Sunday? Here's his take...

What is it about the future and a certain Dallas Cowboys owner that compels Phil Savage to make strange moves during draft weekend?

The Browns' general manager, it appears, loves to punch Jerry Jones' dance card a little too much. It also appears as though he has little regard for the depth of next year's college draft.

How else can he adequately explain why Savage surrendered third- and fifth-round picks next season to fill out his 2008 draft card? He appears to be getting a little reckless.

Sure, he got a nice player in linebacker Beau Bell by trading up 18 notches with Dallas in round four. But what in the world was he thinking about shipping next year's No. 3 to Jones to pick off tight end Martin Rucker just a few picks later?

Makes one wonder whether Kellen Winslow Jr. is worse off physically than we've been led to believe. Perhaps the possibility of a contract squabble entered into the equation.

What about Jones lures Savage into such moves? That's four deals in two seasons with the mercurial Dallas head man. Does he have incriminating photos of Savage? Is it his charming Arkansas accent? Whatever it is, Savage has got to stop taking calls from Dallas. When Jones' name pops up on caller ID, don't answer.

Savage says the Rucker pick was a value pick, not one based on need. What are we not being told? In what way does it relate to Winslow's status?

And what was Savage's hurry to trade next year's No. 5 and take wide receiver Paul Hubbard off the board right after the Ahtyba Rubin selection in round six? Was he afraid some other team would swoop in and grab him before the seventh round?

Hubbard is a project, an unproductive big receiver who has trouble catching the ball. He's nothing more than a bigger, faster Travis Wilson. He is a track star who plays football. Unless your name is Bob Hayes, that isn't going to turn out well.

If Hubbard was so lowly regarded to be considered in the sixth round, why risk a fifth-rounder next year to snag him? At that point, it's mostly about throwing darts and hoping.

What did Savage and his scouts see in this guy to draft him? He had 14 catches in the six games he played last season, seven of them in his one big day against Michigan. But the end zone remained foreign territory to Hubbard in those six games. At least Wilson put up some credible numbers at Oklahoma and reached the end zone. Can you shout developmental?

The Browns say they want to develop Hubbard to where he'll eventually take over for Joe Jurevicius. However, there's one rather large difference between Hubbard and the man he's being groomed to replace: Jurevicius is a football player who can catch the football. He didn't need to be developed.

If Savage wanted height and a good football player, he might have considered Iowa State's Todd Blythe, a 6-5 receiver with good hands who caught 31 career scoring passes for the Cyclones. Blythe's biggest problem was his 4.5 40 time wasn't good enough for some scouts. The guess here is it's better than Jurevicius' 40.

Another developmental shout out goes to seventh-rounder Alex Hall, an undersized defensive end from little St. Augustine who projects as an edge rusher as an outside linebacker.

In clearly a second guess, why not take Maryland outside linebacker Erin Henderson, who projected as a second- or third-rounder, at this point? At least he played the position in college and didn't play against the Mars Hills of the collegiate ranks.

Bell will strongly challenge Andra Davis and Leon Williams at weak side inside linebacker. And Rucker, a Winslow clone in some ways, is another tall target for Derek Anderson. Just don't expect him to block.

Bell is known as a whistle-to-whistle worker when on the field and brings attitude to the huddle. That's something sadly missing with the Browns' defense under Crennel and whoever his coordinator is.

The Cleveland defense wears gray suits and prefers vanilla ice cream. Unlike its offensive counterparts, the defense has no personality. It needs an in-your-face style. It needs to get after the opponent. Perhaps players like Bell , Corey Williams and Shaun Rogers can take charge and elevate the attitude.

The Rubin selection gives the Browns the needed depth along a defensive line that was a bit thin with just the Smiths, Williams and Rogers. Rubin, a classic one-technique tackle in the 3-4, provides insurance in the event Ethan Kelley is not resigned.

But Savage's foray into the 2009 draft is concerning. It won't have an immediate effect on the team. But a few years down the road, giving up future picks very well could come back and bite Savage in the hind flanks.

There's nothing wrong with hording those future picks, especially after a year in which the first three choices were shipped elsewhere.

Sure, the Browns still have their first two picks next year. But the draft is more than just about the first day. In this case, picks three and five are already gone in 2009 and that doesn't speak well from a developmental aspect.

The fact he didn't select a cornerback suggests Savage will bring at least one veteran corner into training camp. It's hard to imagine the Browns opening the season with Eric Wright and Daven Holly or Brandon McDonald at the corners.

With the pass rush ostensibly improved, it's imperative the Browns play more press coverage than they have the last three seasons. Wright has good man coverage skills, but Holly and McDonald are suspect in that area.

I still like the Browns' draft overall, although Savage did nothing to improve on the A grade bestowed upon him last week. The plus sign, reserved for placement next to the A based on the draft, has been stashed.

Was tempted to reach for the minus sign to place beside the A due to Savage's trading bent, but resisted based on the belief Bell and maybe Rucker will be contributors to the cause.


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